Football drops league opener 24-19 to Milpitas – The Viking Magazine

Football drops league opener 24-19 to Milpitas

Scotty Bara

Connor Scheel ('14) returns an interception in the second half. Scheel's pick was the first of three takeaways by the Vikings in the second half.

Austin Poore, Features Editor

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The Palo Alto High School football team lost 24-19 to the Milpitas High School Trojans as the Vikings’ second half comeback fell just short on Friday night under the lights at Paly.

After falling behind 17-0 late in the first half, the Vikings worked hard to claw their way back into the game but were never quite able to get enough going offensively against the stout Milpitas defense.

“Well, they hung in there all the way to the bitter end,” coach Earl Hansen said of his Vikings. “We made some critical errors where we had the ball where we wanted it.”

The Paly offense struggled with turnovers throughout the first half. The Trojans sent a steady diet of blitzing linebackers, led by Vita Vea, Milpitas’s 6’4”, 260-pound middle linebacker, at Keller Chryst (‘14) all night. The Trojan pass rush created several incompletions, as well as causing Chryst to hurry several throws that turned into interceptions. The Trojans also drew numerous holding calls on the Vikings and got to Chryst for four sacks on the evening, which could easily have turned into 10 if Chryst had been unable to scramble and throw the ball away several times.

Chryst finished 16-53 for 280 yards and three touchdowns on the night, but fumbled once and was picked off four times, three of which came in the first half. Despite the tough outing for Chryst, Hansen remains confident in his young quarterback.

“He’s a strong kid, mentally and physically,” he said.

Tight end De’Antay Williams, who caught six passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns, including a highlight-reel worthy 63 yard grab on fourth-and-29 in the fourth quarter that cut the Milpitas deficit to five after the extra point, was one of the few bright spots for the Vikings’ offense.

“He made some big plays for us today,” Hansen said of Williams. “He’s getting better all the time.”

Early in the game, the Vikings suffered several self-inflicted wounds that allowed the Trojans to jump out to an early lead. In addition to Chryst’s three first half interceptions, the Vikings also fumbled twice, which set up Milpitas’s offense with prime field position. The Trojans turned the Paly turnovers into 17 second quarter points, which was the difference in the game.

The Paly defense did a good job of limiting the damage and containing the Milpitas offense, besides giving up the occasional big running play by one of the three main Trojan backs, C.J. Reyes, Brandon Sualua and Vita Vea, each of whom broke multiple long runs.

Late in the first half, Chryst connected with Jayshawn Gates-Mouton (‘13) for a 32 yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-6. However, continuing an unsettling trend from the first few games of the season, James Foug (‘13) was unable to even attempt the extra point after a poor snap and hold.

The Vikings went into the locker room down 11 at halftime, although it could have easily been a much wider deficit without the strong play of the Paly defense.

The Trojans, whose quarterback Ronnie Reed (’14) took every single snap out of the shotgun, struggled to put together any sustained drives after scoring quickly on a Vita Vea touchdown run at the start of the third quarter. Connor Scheel (‘14) picked off Reed on the Trojans’ second drive, but the Vikings were forced to punt.

Milpitas went three and out on its subsequent two possessions, and the Vikings took advantage as Chryst found Williams for the first of his two touchdowns. Paly’s two point conversion attempt, and subsequent onside kick try were both unsuccessful.

Luckily for the Vikings, Reyes fumbled the handoff on the Trojans’ first play from scrimmage, which Erik Anderson (‘13) recovered. Following a Paly first down, and then a holding call, incomplete pass and sack by Vea, the Vikings faced fourth-and-29 from their own 37. Chryst found Williams over the middle about 15 yards downfield, and then Williams did the rest, breaking several tackles and powering his way all the way in for a touchdown.

After a successful extra point, Hansen again opted to try for the onside kick. This time, Justin Gates-Mouton (‘13) was able to recover it and Paly gained possession once again. Unfortunately, the Vikings went three and out and were forced to punt, rendering the successful onside kick virtually useless.

With about seven minutes to play in the game, the Trojans attempted to run some time off the clock by giving Vea and Sualua several handoffs. After a couple of large gains, the trojans faced fourth and two from around the Paly 20 yard line. Vea got the handoff, and was stuffed in the backfield before pitching the ball back to Reed, who was swarmed by Viking tacklers. The Vikes took possession at their own 22 following the turnover on downs.

After four straight Chryst incompletions, the Trojans regained the ball right where they had left off. On third-and-18, the Vikings were flagged for a crucial roughing the passer penalty, which granted the Trojans an automatic first down. With only a minute and a half remaining and Paly out of timeouts, Milpitas lined up in the victory formation to kneel down and run out the clock.

Forced under center for the first time in the ballgame, Reed fumbled the snap and the Vikings recovered, giving Chryst one last chance to lead a game winning drive. However, that was not to be, as the Vikes only managed one first down before Chryst was picked off for the fourth time to ice the game. Fittingly, Vea was the one pressuring Chryst on the last play, just as he had all night.

“[Vea] played hard,” Hansen said. “There’s no question. [My] hat’s off to him.”

Overall, the Vikings were disappointed following the tough loss, but remained proud of their second half effort and the fact that they did not give up despite falling behind early.

“We did a good job,” Anderson said of the team’s second half performance. “We just need to get fired up in the beginning.”

Linebacker Andrew Frick (‘14), who made several key tackles in addition to recovering a fumble in the first half, lamented the numerous mistakes made by the Vikings tonight.

“We made a couple mistakes, and that was the difference between winning and losing,” he said.

The Vikings will have a week to try to address those mistakes in practice before traveling to Homestead to take on the Mustangs next Friday.

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